There is a person who is always worshipping God, and also never harms a soul. But he never helps others or explains what he knows. What could I call such a person?

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    Depending of the context, in some religions your definition applies to "hermit" ,
    – P. O.
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 12:52
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    As in the comments to the two answers thus far, we might need more information. Are you looking for a negative term, or something more neutral? I can state that in the ~2000 years of Christian theology and culture, that a person who actively avoids helping others is often viewed negatively, as someone who is failing to meet a positive duty to care for others (this duty is explicitly stated in multiple books of the Christian New Testament).
    – wordsmythe
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 15:05
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    Sounds like you want an adjective that most aptly sums up the first two fellows in the tale of the good samaritan.
    – Sam
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 20:49
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    @MichaelLai That depends on which faith the OP is thinking of; Not all Christian sects are evangelistic, for example.
    – user867
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 4:20
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    We really need more detail before this can clearly be answered: for a start, are you or are you not looking for a pejorative word? There's a big difference between hermit and self-righteous. You're attracting a broad swathe of unfocussed answers.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 11:13

7 Answers 7


I think sanctimonious may convey the idea:

  • affecting piety or making a display of holiness [C17: from Latin sanctimonia sanctity, from sanctus holy]

  • showing or marked by false piety or righteousness; hypocritically virtuous.

Also pharisaical :

  • excessively or hypocritically pious; "a sickening sanctimonious smile"

P.S. Regarding "pharisaical" people should consider not using this term because of its anti-semitic connotations.

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    Both of these are a touch more pejorative than the situation may really call for. (And I am not at all sure of the aptness of the pejorative-language tag you added here, @medica.) The worship, of what god we are not told, may be perfectly sincere and not the least ostentatious; and refraining from assisting others might comport perfectly well with the religion in question. Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 11:16
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    FYI, pharisaical is a very offensive term to Jews. It is a concocted version by Roman officials to discredit the rabbis. Just because the offensive term is found in your portion of the Bible should it be an acceptable term. Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 11:43
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    @BlessedGeek How do you figure? It's a derivation of a name of a religious sect etymonline.com/… Can you provide some historical context or other evidence? Are there references to the word's anti-semitic nature?
    – weberc2
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 20:07
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    I appear to be mistaken in my thinking: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/41028/… I will be more choosy with my words, at least as it relates to Pharisee comparisons, as religions seem to differ greatly on this point of history.
    – BrianH
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 0:40
  • Weberc, the very confession that you think they are but a religious sect, underscores your comprehension of the issues at hand. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 1:29

Based off your description the person:

  1. Worships a god (context may open or close certain answers, since different "gods" / religions will place emphasis on certain practices and not others).
  2. Does not negatively impact others.
  3. But also does not positively contribute to others learning or others well being.

I would lean toward describing them as either

1) Pious

  1. having or showing a dutiful spirit of reverence for God or an earnest wish to fulfill religious obligations.
  2. characterized by a hypocritical concern with virtue or religious devotion; sanctimonious.

Reasoning: This word captures the duty to deity, does not demand one be "good" (as in helpful), and yet leaves open the idea/connotation of hypocrisy if helping others is part of that religion.

2) Reverent

feeling, exhibiting, or characterized by reverence; deeply respectful

Reasoning: The idea of respect is inherent in both the worship of the deity as well as in not hurting others. Yet respect does not imply that one helps.


hermit or eremite would fit.

hermit, also called Eremite, one who retires from society, primarily for religious reasons, and lives in solitude. In Christianity the word (from Greek erēmitēs, “living in the desert”) is used interchangeably with anchorite, although the two were originally distinguished on the basis of location: an anchorite selected a cell attached to a church or near a populous centre, while a hermit retired to the wilderness.

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    I think that apartness is key to hermit and anchorite. I'm not sure that OP intends that quality.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 14:07
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    @bib: Yes, the intention is not very clear but this answer still covers the idea.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 14:20
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    It might touch the idea...I don't know that it covers it. Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 15:17
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    How come it does not cover? Can you explain it? You are religious and you are in solitude. If you are in solitude, you can't and you don't help people. This is a choice rather than being a hypocrite or something else.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 16:15
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    There are plenty of hermits that are reclusive for reasons that aren't religious at all. Just pointing that out....
    – Josh
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 19:09

I think that self-righteous also conveys the correct meaning.

  • having or showing a strong belief that your own actions, opinions, etc., are right and other people's are wrong

  • convinced of one's own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others : narrow-mindedly moralistic

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    Doesn't really reflect the fact that they prefer not to have interactions with other people. A self-righteous person would probably go out of their way to point out other people's errors. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 1:05

You never know who will be offended by what, but I've never1 encountered the suggestion that any modern Jew might take offence at this dictionary.com definition...

pharisee 2. (lowercase) a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.

The adjectival form is much less common, so you're more likely to hear "He's such a pharisee!" rather than "He's so pharisaical!".

Note that the original Collins definition (also cited by dictionary.com) differs slightly, in that it just says (often not capital). Which accords with my own experience; the "figurative" use isn't always marked by being in lowercase.

1 Until now (see comments below)

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    Note: You have now encountered the suggestion that a modern Jew might take offense at that dictionary.com definition.
    – dg99
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 16:38
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    @dg99: Granted. But I'm not going to let that affect my use of English, nor do I expect the dictionaries to either withdraw their definitions or add a caveat saying this usage is "offensive". Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 16:49
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    Its meaning goes beyond what I thought it did. I was previously such a fan of the word, but I never thought it would be genuinely offensive to people other than people it was actually intended to offend:judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/41028/…
    – BrianH
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 0:49
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    @BrianDHall: We await with baited breath a comment from an actual "Jew" (a term which frankly I myself find somewhat "offensive") who might say "I am offended!". I think mostly we're dealing with people who gets their rocks off detecting bigotry in others. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 1:43
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    @FumbleFingers At the time of your comment, the question linked by BrianDHall had an answer where a Jewish person saying he and his other Jewish friends found it offensive. Furthermore, that is now the top answer for that question on a site heavily populated by Jewish people. I'd say you didn't need to wait at all.
    – trlkly
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 0:36

It probably depends on what religion the person ascribes to. I'll go with the assumption that the golden rule is a requirement in each religion. Following from that, it would seem that such a person is devout. They worship [Gg]od and treat others as they wish to be treated. If a religion does make it a requirement to actively engage others and help them, then such a person is sanctimonious.

Roughly half of the population are introverts though. There are great many self-help guides on how extroverts can deal with lack of human contact and how introverts can deal with excess of human contact.

If you are looking for a pejorative term to label such a person, just realize that you are taking the position that the introverted half of the population cannot be honest followers of such a religion. I am not saying that's right or wrong, but I am saying that it follows from a pejorative labeling of such a person.


I too would have gone for hermit or anchorite, but I feel it might be undesiredly too christian-oriented. Let's instead search for a term that does not imply a specific religion.

Solipsist alone covers well the detached from the world aspect but lacks to convey the religious fervor. So I'd advocate for :

A solipsist mystic

(as in a mystic has a deep and intimate relationship with his god, that is unsharable with others.)

So it could describe a buddhist as well as a christian, or any other faith.

(Note to the OP : I read in a comment that your question did not imply being retired of the world. Can you answer to that ? If so, I'll remove my answer for being off-topic.)

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    There is more to solipsism than being detached from the world, and that more means a great deal more than the OP has requested.
    – user867
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 4:30
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    At least I did not imply hypocrisy like many answers did. And that, for sure, was not in the original question. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 9:44

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